3 more reasons why Scrivener makes writing a book easy

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I recently blogged about how Scrivener was helping me to imagine all kinds of structural possibilities for my novel, because of the way it made setting up and manipulating the ordering of the scenes in my book so easy. In this post, I’m going to cover off three other features of Scrivener that I love, and that are making me want to spend more and more time writing my book.

Word count targets

The first of these features is such a simple thing, really. In the picture below is the Project Target box. It has a green bar at the top, underneath the heading A Beautiful Catastrophe Target. The bar below that is green, and is labelled Session Target.

I’ve set a session target of 1000 words for each of the three x 2 hour writing sessions I have each week. And as I write that bar moves from left to right, showing me how close I am getting to my daily word target. I know this makes me sound weird, but I find it incredibly motivating to see, graphically, how close I am to getting to my daily target. I haven’t missed a target since I started and I can’t help but think this little tool is part of the reason.

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The Manuscript Target is a bit more arbitrary for me, but still lots of fun. I’ve set it for 80,000 words – but what do I know? My first book was 60,000 words, my second was 68,000 words and I’m basing the word target for this one on a gut feel. Regardless of the number though, it’s still nice to turn on Scrivener every day and see that orange line edging closer to the final total manuscript target. And if you’re not a person who can deal with word targets, then you just turn that feature off and the box disappears.

Storing research in Scrivener

I’m writing a book set in 1920s New York. I was not alive then – I’m not that old! – so I have to do lots of research. And this is where Scrivener comes into its own. All of your research can be linked into your manuscript, and all your research photos, PDF documents, internet links etc, can be kept in folders on Scrivener.

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The picture above shows a page of my manuscript and you can see the word Mandaro’s about halfway down, which is written in blue text. This is because I have set up a link to a picture of Mandaro’s, which I have saved in my Places Folder in Scrivener.

Mandaro’s is a cheese shop that was in Greenwich Village in the 1920s and 30s and I describe my character walking past the shop on occasion. If I need to, when I’m writing or redrafting, I just click on the link I’ve set up on the word “Mandaro’s” and it takes me straight to the picture of the shop, so I can describe it in detail if I need to, to add authenticity to the scene.

The Places corkboard

Below you can see a picture of my Places corkboard with pictures I have saved of some of the places that are important to my characters and my story.

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As well as a Places Folder, there is a Photo folder for other research material. I have pictures of 1920s dresses that I have found on the internet and that I think my characters might wear, shoes, the interiors of the EL trains, everything I need to see the world my characters inhabit, while I write. I don’t have to leave Scrivener and go into iPhoto or another folder on my computer; it’s all there, linked to my manuscript.

Keeping notes handy

Often when I’m writing one scene, I’ll have an idea about something extra that needs to go into a different scene. I don’t want to break away from the scene I’m writing, but I need to jot the idea down or it will vanish. Or I’ll be reading about about life in New York in the Twenties and I’ll come across something that I want to add into a scene. Hello Scrivener Notes.

Each scene has a notes section, which you can see is the yellow section in each of the pictures on this page. I can add in some notes to any scene in my manuscript or to any photos in my research folders. The notes don’t go into the manuscript itself, like you would have to do in Word; they’re a separate but linked section that are each attached to their own particular scene.

I just love the way that Scrivener helps you contain everything in one place. Research, notes, outlines, everything is kept together and everything links back to the manuscript. It’s brilliant.

Natasha LesterNatasha Lester is the award-winning author of two novels If I Should Lose You (2012) and What is Left Over, After (2010). Her third novel, A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, will be released in April 2016.

Natasha is also a presenter for the Australian Writers’ Centre. She teaches Creative Writing Stage 1 in Perth and 2 Hours to Scrivener Power as an online, on-demand course.

You can also check out Natasha's website here.

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